Black Women's Equal Pay Day: Is this Really a Big Issue or Should We Focus on Something Else?
On the 31st of July, it was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day in the US. To commemorate and mark this day, Serena Williams posted an article in Fortune Magazine entitled ‘How Black Women Can Close the Pay Gap’.
Whilst, I am acutely aware of the differences between the salaries of men and women, I had not fully appreciated the vast implications that race, in addition to gender, has upon one's monetary value in the workplace. Whilst, I believe that we predominantly reside in a post-racial, post-sexist world; there are instances arising each and every day that threaten that. The fact is, women are paid 13.9% less than men. In the UK, we observe the 10th of November as Equal Pay Day, this date was specifically chosen as it is the day that women effectively stop earning relative to men. The remaining 51 days of the year are a symbol of the extent to which women are undervalued. Furthermore, according to an analysis by consultants Deloitte, if the current rate of pay inequality change continues, the pay gap will exist until 2069 which is 99 years after the Equal Pay Act of 1970.
But why exactly is this? And how did this come to be such a prevalent issue in 2017?
The gender pay gap is easy enough to trace. There are a number of causes that all stem from the times when women first took to the workforce during WWI and WWII. Prior to this, we were housewives, our job was to manage our family, run the home, clean up after our darling husband and children. However, with the movement of men abroad to fight in the World Wars, women were required to accommodate the vacancies left by this wartime migration. During this time, employers were asked only to voluntarily make “adjustments which equalise wage or salary rates paid to females with the rates paid to males for comparable quality or quantity of work on the same or similar operations.” These voluntarily contributions established an attitude regarding the Working Woman that has been, to some extent, maintained within modern society.
There are four main “causes” for the gendered pay gap in contemporary culture, and a number of these are also applicable to the ethnic pay gap. The causes are: discrimination, unequal caring responsibilities, a divided labour market, and the predominance of men in the most senior roles.
So what do these actually mean? :-
Discrimination:- We've all heard the word, we've checked the box to say that we won't enact any prejudices based upon discrimination, and yet it is a big issue in Britain. Fundamentally, women are still paid less when they complete the same role or demonstrate equivalent work output as compared to their male counterparts.
Unequal Caring Responsibilities:- Women continue to play a greater role in caring for children, sick or elderly relatives, therefore, more women have part time work and therefore fewer opportunities for career promotion or progression.
A Divided Labour Market:- Women are still more likely to be low paid and low skill jobs, which impacts labour market segregation. 80% if those working in the low paid care and leisure sector are women, while only 10% of those in the better paid skilled trades are women. Women in fact make up 60% of those earning less than the living wage.
Men in the Most Senior Roles:- Men, and more specifically white men, continue to be occupy the top dog roles in the majority of FTSE 100 companies. There are only five female Chief Executives amongst the FTSE 100 Companies list. In fact, there are more CEO ‘David’s’ than women CEOs within the FTSE 100 list.
The split of gender in top ranking positions has been a prevalent discussion recently, especially in light of the BBC's recent publication of their top earners' salaries. The top twenty BBC earners can be seen in the image below. As the graphic indicates, there is a huge disparity in the number of male and female earners within this group. What is perhaps more alarming is that there is not a single “BME” (Black and minority ethnic) employee within this group of the top earners. In fact, it is not until position twenty-five that a BME earner is listed, this being newsreader: George Alagiah. In fact, of the 96 highest paid employees listed by the BBC, only ten of are non-white. Evidently this showcases a startling lack of diversity at the top levels of the BBC talent pool. A company with a clear ethos when it comes to diversity: “For us, diversity isn’t a strategy; it’s an essential part of who we are.”
It is not only the BBC that seems to espouse one philosophy and yet in practice, does not appear to practice this at the top levels. Injustices in terms of gender and ethnic diversity is a common practice amongst the FTSE 100 companies, particularly amongst it's leadership. According to CMI, around 12.5% of the UK are BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) and yet they hold just 6% of the top management positions. Furthermore, the CMI has found that only 54% of HR/Diversity managers see their business leaders championing BAME diversity.
So where exactly do things stand in terms of the ethnic pay gap?
According to a report undertaken by the Fawcett Society, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women see the biggest overall gender pay gap, at a staggering 26.2%, to white British men, while black African women experience the largest full-time gender pay gap, at 19.6%. Indian women experience the biggest pay gap with men in their ethnic group at 16.1%. These statistics are astounding and clearly indicate that whilst there are both gendered and ethnic injustices currently hindering the Working Woman.
So, before we run out and name ourselves David, I want to reflect on the advice Serena wrote within her article:-
As Serena Williams has indicated, the issue is a large barrier in the workforce and should be campaigned against. The environments in the US and Britain are quite different, however, the fundamental issues at play are the same: there are deep injustices and everyday sexism and racism that has been embedded within our society to create a toxic environment hindering female development and progression up the career ladder.
In my opinion, we should strive for a “blind” society. Not physically without sight, but blind to any characteristic or feature that makes us different from another human being. I would rather be valued for my level of work product, my working contribution and the extent to which I add value to the company as a whole; than continue to wonder if my colour, if my gender, if the fact that I have womb and may one day decide to use it, might deteriorate my salary or career progression. So, YES, this is a massive bloody issue. The weight of such should be carried on each and every citizen’s shoulders, because whilst we are all unique, we are all individual; we are also a community, we are British, we are a nation that should work together to value each and every person we encounter. What if society were to classify something that you cannot change about yourself, something that you have possessed or been since your birth; what if that quality made you 13.9% less worthy, made your value to your career run out on the 10th of November every year.
Whilst Serena's words bringing this issue to light, even if it is just for the moment, we need to remember that fighting to get paid the same as David is never going to work. We have to work together, as a society, as a community, as a collective. We must fight for a more equal type of equality. We must fight to have the instinct for equality naturalised within us as a society. If there is even one person at odd's with that, then we should continue to campaign and affect real change. I would ask that you keep the year 2069 in your mind. We are currently in 2017, we have a real chance to change the way people think and act, so let's put our heads together and help to foster a more inclusive and equal atmosphere throughout our entire nation.